December 12, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
A mysterious Florida fugitive who knocked over a Transcona credit union while cloaked in a garish female clown costume has been sentenced to eight years behind bars.
Minutes after Judge John Guy convicted Rondell McGarrett Johnson, 40, of robbery, wear disguise and public mischief Tuesday morning, Johnson elected to proceed immediately to sentencing to learn his fate.
Johnson has been in custody since the afternoon Dec. 18, 2012 — specifically about 15 minutes after he strolled into the Crosstown Credit Union while completely cloaked in bizarre clownish garb and robbed the bank for thousands in cash while brandishing an imitation handgun.
Police tracked Johnson down on foot to secluded area south of the bank where he was seen walking along some railway tracks in normal-looking clothes. After his arrest officers located a duffel bag nearby where he had been walking stuffed with the garments and other items he used to disguise himself. The gun was never recovered.
It appeared Johnson used Nerf balls cut in half to fashion a large pair of fake breasts, which were then stuffed into a gigantic bra.
He fought his case at trial, claiming police had the wrong suspect. Guy ruled after looking at all the circumstances and the overall timeline of events, there was no other logical conclusion than that Johnson was the guilty party.
Guy found there was ample evidence of planning involved, and agreed with prosecutor Mark Kantor's request for a sentence in the 8-10 year range.
Kantor pointed to the fear the three tellers present at the credit union likely would have felt at being so suddenly robbed.
"I said, 'if this is going to be now, well, this is going to be now — the Lord is going to take me,'" one long-time teller testified last week of how the robbery made her feel.
"Clearly there was a marked fear," Kantor told Guy.
Johnson has a criminal past in the U.S. stretching back to 1991, and includes two separate convictions for drug-trafficking which netted him prison terms of more than three years. He's currently wanted in Colorado for a parole violation and will be extradited back home once his Canadian sentence concludes.
Guy credited him for 10 months of remand time, reducing his sentence to seven years and two months.
Little about Johnson and his background was relayed to Guy by his defence lawyer. "He's a very private person," Melina Chohan said.
He continues to deny any involvement, she told court. No information was presented to Guy about how Johnson managed to make his way into Canada, or when. A source previously told the Free Press he snuck across the border on foot in Minnesota.